Ever wonder what football coaches do between the end of recruiting and the start of spring ball? Me, too.
Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall offered a glimpse when we chatted last week. He had to make it quick, though, because he was headed out the door to speak at a coaches clinic.
“Getting all our stuff organized," McCall said. "What do we want to do different? Analyze our season. We go back and look at the things we did well, the things we need to improve on, anything we want to change. Looking at different guys and how they played.
“Looking at yourself as a coach. You know, ‘I must not have taught that very well because here’s what you see (on video). They keep on doing this, so I’m not teaching it very well and I’ve got to change.’
Northwestern’s coaches are nearing the end of a three-week stretch where they break down and analyze every 2010 game, which allows them to set priorities for the 15 spring practices that commence on March 7.
“Two days a week (Monday and Wednesday), we spend most of our time breaking down our stuff,” McCall said. “The other two days, Tuesday and Thursday, we break it up where we have half recruiting and half where we’re spending our time on (breaking down the video). Friday is (for) clinics. We go out and talk. High school coaches come in and visit. Could be a lot of different things that happen on Friday. We’ve got plenty of things to do.”
That includes some direct work with the players. As Pat Fitzgerald noted, NCAA rules allow the players to interact with coaches for eight hours per week.
“All hands on deck for Winning Edge,” Fitzgerald said. “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.”
When the Wildcats meet at 6:30 a.m. for Winning Edge workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the coaches are there. They all head to the field at 6:40 a.m. When the workout ends around 8 a.m., the players and coaches stick together to relive what they’ve just done.
“We talk about what we just experienced,” Fitzgerald said. “We elicit information from the players and what they just went through and what they learned and why one group beat another group.”
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Wildcats lift together. The coaches are a part of those workouts, too, though not to the same extent.
“We’ll be down there as position coaches for the start of the workout for about 15 minutes,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re encouraging the guys, because that’s usually when we’re squatting or cleaning or pressing -- the big core lift. But then we’ll get back up here (to the office) to whatever we’re doing that morning.”
For defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, that includes some looks at Boston College and Army. Those are Northwestern’s first two FBS opponents -- and both games are on the road. He'd like to spend a little bit of spring ball familiarizing his guys with their offensive schemes.
However, most of Hankwitz’ work in recent weeks has focused on his team: The hows and whys of the late-season struggles against Illinois, Wisconsin and Texas Tech, when NU allowed more than 50 points and 550 total yards per game.
“We’ve got to execute better,” Hankwitz said. “We made too many mental mistakes that hurt ourselves. Tackling, particularly the last three games…we were not as aggressive and we didn’t tackle as well the last three games as we did prior to that.
“It was frustrating because we were like Jekyll and Hyde. After the Iowa game, we were playing better through 10 games statistically than we were the year before. The last three games were just atypical. It wasn’t like we’d played prior to that, so it was frustrating. Disappointing. But it happened, so we’re going to do something about it.”
By the way, here’s Northwestern’s 2011 schedule. Interesting that there’ll be just one home game before the students hit campus. Penn State is Homecoming…and one of eight opponents that appeared in a bowl:
Sept. 3: at Boston College (7-6)
Sept. 10: EASTERN ILLINOIS (2-9)
Sept. 17: at Army (7-6)
Sept. 24: OPEN
Oct. 1: at Illinois (7-6)
Oct. 8: MICHIGAN (7-6)
Oct. 15: at Iowa (8-5)
Oct. 22: PENN STATE (7-6)
Oct. 29: at Indiana (5-7)
Nov. 5: at Nebraska (10-4)
Nov. 12: RICE (4-8)
Nov. 19: MINNESOTA (3-9)
Nov. 26: MICHIGAN STATE (11-2)
Big Ten no-plays: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin